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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 353

Mr RONALD EDWARDS(10.54) —With respect to the amendment the Opposition has moved, the issue it still has not addressed is the whole question of the structure of tax and the way the community accepts it. This is the point I made in the debate previously.

I acknowledge the comments from the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). The issue which has to be addressed is, if we are going to have a tax system which works, it has to be seen as one in which there is equity. The problem which has arisen under our tax system is simply that those who are committed to paying tax have no choice, while those who have been avoiding tax have been allowed to get away with it. That is the fundamental point, and that is why there is an element of retrospectivity in this legislation.

The issue which the Opposition has to face up to is that, unless we can show in the national Parliament, via retrospective legislation, that we are prepared to deal with those who sought through a blatant contrivance to avoid their tax obligations, we will have no trust from the rest of the community who are committed to paying tax and who want to take part in the financial system. That is the obligation we have in this place. That is why in this legislation, as the honourable member for Charlton (Mr Robert Brown) has said, if we are going to be serious about having an equitable tax system, we have to show with respect to this legislation that we are prepared to act against those people who have sought in a wilful and blatant way to avoid their tax commitments. That is why the element of retrospectivity is there.

I say to the Opposition-and I think it will be demonstrated this weekend-that failure to do so means that we lose the support of the business community. That has happened, because we acknowledge that the current levels of tax are a burden on the community. I think Premier Cain will show in Victoria that he has the support of the business community. In effect, the problem we face is that if we do not show our determination to ensure that the tax laws are pursued and enforced, then the honest taxpayers have no incentive for being part of the system. That is the problem which developed under the previous Government. This Government believes that the way it is going about it in this legislation will deal with that problem, and that is why I oppose the amendment and support the Bill.